How Today’s Young People Can Solve Global Development Challenges

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On September 25th 2015, 17 sustainable development goals were adopted by 193 member states of the United Nations that aim to eliminate poverty and hunger, protect the environment from climate change, achieve gender equality and raise living standards by 2030. The goals have been set, but who will bring them to fruition? The answer: the world’s young people.

“Development is a dialogue for and by the youth,” says Jemi Laclé, Chair of the World Bank Group Youth2Youth Steering Committee. “The 2030 agenda is an aspirational agenda, to get us all aligned towards an inclusive, equitable and poverty-free world.”

But, realistically, what roles can young people play to effectively address some of the current global development issues affecting the state of the world? The World Bank Group is offering a way to uncover their place in the conversation says Claudia Koerbler, Chair, WBG YouthtoYouth Youth Innovation Fund: “[Young people] shall discover their own genius and with a united voice, [and] will be the leaders of tomorrow.” How will this manifest? First off, there is a growing trend of youth communities increasing globally and it’s no surprise that these communities are rising up to address development issues because there is a realization that if you are not at the table, then you’re on the menu.

This Feburary, Wharton Business School and the World Bank Group (WBG) YouthtoYouth Community, (the steering committee of the YouthtoYouthCommunity at the global development institution) held a gathering of youth leaders for their first Young Global Leaders IdeaLab to discuss ideas for financing solutions for the development agenda. This IdeaLab was for the Ideas for Action (14A) competition that aimed to encourage youths in development to share ideas for financing solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In same month, almost a hundred youth leaders gathered at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC for an event organized by the WBG Group YouthtoYouth Community that served as an open platform for swapping stories on how they are using technology to make a difference in their leadership roles in addressing some of the pressing issues that fall under the Sustainable Development Goals.

World Bank Group Y2Y Team

During his opening remarks at the 20×20 TechImpact event, Ermal Vila, Chair of the Partnership and Events Y2Y at the WBG, gave an in-depth speech addressing the impact of technology, saying “With the digital revolution, we are transcending the limitations of our minds and more than ever we are closer to actualize our human imagination. Technology with its exponential nature has moved from the linear and now we are presented with boundless possibilities.”

The World Bank Group itself has a set goal to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 and its YouthtoYouth Community enhances its mission, by providing a platform for young WBG employees to engage, inspire and empower youth on a global scale.

Last October, the WBG held an event called ‘#YouthDialogues – The Future of Development’ which brought young change drivers of diverse fields together with the President of the WBG to foster a dialogue about the youth involvement in the SDG’s. There was high participation in discussions about the global economy, policies to reduce poverty and promote inclusive economic growth. A key question that kept circulating had to do with how youths that are not in a position of power can truly make an impact including how those from low-income countries can also gain leadership representation at the table, in driving the development agenda. WBG President Jim Yong Kim emphasized his stance that “a lot of [young] people don’t think they can make a difference, but a few committed souls can change the world.” He reminded them of the issues that inevitably will shape their future and emphasized his belief that every young person can play a role in bringing awareness to some issue.

During my conversation with Vila, Koerbler and Laclé, we talked about the subject of engaging youths in development solutions and one thing they shared, which seemed central, is that the impact technology has on the youth development agenda cannot be overlooked. In fact, the newly launched World Bank World Development Report is about Digital Dividends. Koerbler added, “Technology and youth are aligned towards a mission to tackle the twin goals of the World Bank Group.”

It is clear that global Institutions like the World Bank Group and the United Nations have an important role to play as they are the chief bodies in global development. Most especially, they have an obligation to the youths worldwide- to bring them to the table, engage with them and their ideas to be part of the global solutions needed to bring about the change the world seeks. It seems to be an approach that’s working, through organizations like YouthtoYouth (Y2Y), that encourage active participation of young professionals across the world.

The core message is that now more than ever is the time for the global youth community to become fearless in their approach when thinking about solutions to causes that frustrate them the most. While at it, it’s also important to explore how this same technology can be used for good to contribute to the development of others in sectors. That is the beginning of securing your seat at the table as a young global development leader.

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